First Report of Session
2007-08 from the Procedure Committee|
Law Commission Bills
1. The Leader of the House has made proposals
for new procedures for Law Commission bills. In bringing forward
these proposals she fulfilled a commitment made in 2006, during
the passage of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.
2. We accordingly recommend the adoption of the
procedures described in this report. If agreed by the House, the
procedures will be adopted initially for a trial period, and in
respect of not more than two bills. They will then be reviewed
by this Committee, which will report back to the House with final
recommendations on whether or not the procedures should be made
3. The Law Commission has been existence since
1965. Its aim is to ensure that the statute law is "as fair,
modern, simple and cost-effective as possible". When the
Commission examines a particular area of law, it first establishes
the scope of its work in conjunction with the relevant Government
Department. It then consults on the existing law and on proposals
for change. It makes a report to the Lord Chancellor and Minister
of Justice, with recommendations and reasons; this report may
include a draft bill giving effect to the Commission's recommendations.
These draft bills are referred to as "Law Commission bills".
4. Since 1991 some 54 Law Commission reports
with bills have been published. Most have been implemented, normally
by incorporating them into relevant Government bills, as and when
opportunities arise within the Government's legislative programme.
However, such opportunities are limited, and as a result the rate
of implementation has not kept pace with the production of reports.
Eight reports, which have been accepted by Government, are still
awaiting implementation; Government responses to another 12 reports
are pending. It is hoped that these new procedures will help clear
the backlog and reduce delays in future.
5. We emphasise that the procedures described
below are intended only for Law Commission bills that are generally
agreed to be uncontroversial. Before introduction of any bill,
there will be full consultation within the usual channels to determine
whether or not it is suitable for these procedures. If in the
course of proceedings on the bill it becomes clear, for example
during debate on second reading, that it does after all contain
controversial provisions, the new procedures will be halted and
it will then be for the Government business managers to decide
whether or not to proceed with the bill under the normal procedures
applying to any other public bill.
6. On introduction, the Bill would be identified
as a Law Commission bill in House of Lords Business. This would
be done by means of an italic note.
7. Following first reading, a motion would be
tabled, with at least three sitting days' notice, to refer the
Bill to a "Second Reading Committee". This would be
an innovation for the Lords. It would function like a Grand Committee,
with unlimited membership, and would take place in the Moses Room.
Any Member could speak and there would be no time limit on the
debate. However, as in Grand Committee, there would be no provision
8. The Second Reading Committee would only debate
the bill; it would not itself decide on the motion for second
reading. As for affirmative instruments which have been debated
in Grand Committee, and which still have to be approved formally
by the House, the Second Reading Committee would simply report
that it had considered the bill, and the motion for second reading
would be taken formally in the House at a later date. It would
of course be possible, in the event of serious opposition to the
bill, for a vote to take place at this stage, as for any other
9. Assuming the bill had been given a second
reading, the next stage would be a motion to commit the bill.
The Companion to the Standing Orders
describes Special Public Bill Committees as being particularly
suited to Law Commission bills, and we recommend that this existing
procedure should become the norm for the committee stage for Law
10. Special Public Bill Committees are empowered
to take written and oral evidence within a 28-day period following
their appointment. Having taken evidence, they then consider the
bill clause by clause and consider amendments in the usual way.
11. Special Public Bill Committees are appointed
by the House on the basis of a recommendation by the Committee
of Selection, and normally have a membership of nine or ten, including
the relevant minister and spokesmen of opposition parties. Members
of the House who are not appointed to the Committee are free to
attend public meetings, speak and move amendments, but may not
vote in the event of a division.
12. Once the Special Public Bill Committee has
completed its work the bill is reprinted as amended. Written and
oral evidence, and a verbatim report of proceedings, are also
13. The remaining stages, Report and Third Reading,
would follow in the usual way, on the floor of the House and on
separate days. Subsequent proceedings (for instance consideration
of Commons amendments) would also be exactly as for any other
1 See paragraphs 7.109-7.113. Back